Early Crisis Detection through Literary Analysis

Since September 2017 the team of the study “Early Crisis Detection through Literary Analysis” is utilizing literary texts as prognostic instruments for the prevention of violence.

Literature as Prognostic Instrument

Although previous research approaches did see the importance of language and texts within the dynamics of conflicts and crises, involving literary texts in the analytical and practical processes of violence prevention has never been taken into consideration.
The study “Early Crisis Detection through Literary Analysis” is based on the premise that literary texts indicate the fracture lines and hazards of societies in advance – often even years before violence itself occurs.

It depends greatly on the literary imaginations that simulate possible trajectories of the conflict during its latency phase whether the violence will erupt, whether the conflict will rumble on, or whether the tensions can even be reduced. We assume this to be the crucial phase. It is in this moment that vital narratives carve themselves out: Group belonging and phantasies of violence and their legitimations are illustrated and emotionally staged in suggestive ways. The conflict’s trajectories get “scripted” in the truest sense of the word. This “language of conflict emergence” determines how such a conflict is (internally) received, and it determines the range of possibilities for either its destructive escalation or its reconciliation.

Why Literature?

Emotions, moods, subjective perceptions and exemplary stories are core elements of a conflict’s latency phase. Facts and fictions mix up, which implements fictions as basis for collective perceptions and emotions, consequently facilitating them to become factitious.

As “storage media” of collective, emotional experience, literary texts verbalize which traumata, fears, and hopes move and motivate people. Since literary texts represent underlying emotional interrelations that can neither be comprehended nor quantified by “big data”, they are not just the key to the mental and emotional “black boxes” of conflict regions, but, primarily, they display the complex dynamics of the conflicts – given that the texts are correctly analyzed. Because – concerning our basic premise – conflict regions are situated at the intersection between fact and fiction, they need literary analysis in addition to the political one.

Selection of Literature

Principally, literary texts can do both: either inflame conflicts or defuse them, either construct images of the enemy or dismantle them, either propagate ideologies or undermine them. While “constructive” texts seismographically refer to social dangers, “destructive” texts can facilitate the development of enemy images. Through a textual analysis of mutual texts that focuses on the aspect of conflict, we can create an “atmospheric picture”, an emotional map of the region of interest. In doing so, we identify potential for violence at an early stage. 


© 2018 Studienprojekt Cassandra — Krisenfrüherkennung durch Literaturauswertung
(Study Project Cassandra – Early Crisis Detection through Literary Analysis)
Weltethos-Institut (Global Ethic Institute)
Hintere Grabenstraße 26, 72020 Tübingen, Germany
Phone +49 70 71 5 49 40 30, info@projekt-cassandra.net

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